Some early Xanadu publicity activities included a press party
at the end of the first day of shooting and the pairing of Olivia
and Kelly to present an Oscar at the 1979 Academy Awards in
April 1980. Olivia would grace the cover of People Magazine a
short time later; the cover proclaimed “Roller Mania!” Although
the film was never mentioned directly and other celebrities
were featured, the fact that Olivia was presented so
prominently in skates left little doubt that the article was, in a
large part, at least an oblique plug for Xanadu.
On that very same night that Olivia was giving an Oscar, her
own TV special, Hollywood Nights, aired after the telecast. One
part of the show presented a mock-on-the-scene news report
featuring Ted Knight and Dick Clark, with mixed results. The
rest of the show was pure music with Olivia singing duets with
her Xanadu co-star Gene Kelly, Cliff Richard and Elton John
(the later with Candle In The Wind). The last two segments of
this special had Olivia singing Gimme Some Lovin’ in various
costume changes, including Barbarella- and Dietrich-styled
outfits. The final number was the Eagles’ Heartache Tonight
which featured Andy Gibb, Tina Turner, Toni Tennile (of ‘Capt. &
Tennile’ fame) and Karen Carpenter as co-vocalists; an AOR
tune getting a variety show treatment. The show was a ratings
smash, due in large part to it’s being scheduled as the lead-in
to the Oscar show in the east coast and follow-up on the west.
The Xanadu publicity blitzkrieg was underway...
While Olivia, Gene and Michael were doing the usual
interviews, bigger plans were on the way for the soundtrack.
Originally, the soundtrack was planned as a double-disc
package, but was cut in half as the recording industry was
going through a serious industry recession. Despite this
scaling back, the packaging itself was quite elaborate. A raised
cardboard pressing and a gatefold with photos from the film
WITH cardboard record sleeve. The LP itself was pressed in
the manner that gave Olivia and ELO their own sides well as
assigning their own color; Olivia side had a special violet label
and ELO had a blue one. This color scheme would be effective
throughout Xanadu promotional items, including the record
store and theater stand-ups (the later display was five foot tall
and lighted from the inside!).
On the weekend of May 16, 1980, MCA Records held a two-day mini-
convention in Universal City (the studio’s home) promoting Xanadu
and it’s soundtrack to industry people, retailers, movie exhibitors,
press and such. MCA Record president Bob Siner announced the
beginning of a four-month Xanadu Blitz that included a massive array
of promotion stand-ups and displays of various sizes and in-store
contests. There was also a 30-minute syndicated TV special called
Making Xanadu, radio specials each on ELO and Olivia and, in
selective department stores, a ‘Xanadu Boutique’ that sold replicas of
some of the film’s outfits (some of which were featured in an ad in
Ladies Home Journal).
During this mini-con, the attendees were treated to a staged preview of the soundtrack, complete with the actual ‘Xanadu
Dancers’; later, a 20-minute production reel was shown, reveling the movie, it’s number and basic plot in a very raw and undubbed
An MCA executive would boast later in the con, “We all know Saturday Night Fever and Grease saved our business in 1978 and
Xanadu will save it in 1980!” A similar blitz was being engineered by ELO’s label, Jet Records, for the rest of the world (minus the
boutiques). Special merchandise like T-shirts and posters were offered through a colorful flyer in the LP along side with some
postcards. A small series of promotional trading cards were given away at drug stores in the UK and Germany. At the time, it was
determined that Xanadu would officially open in October for the world outside the USA.
The first week of June saw the first two releases from Xanadu, Olivia’s
Magic and ELO’s I’m Alive. Both singles were issued with special labels &
sleeves and a store promo stand-up. Each single also had non-LP cuts;
Magic had Fool/Country (a medley taken from the films final big production
number) and I’m Alive had Drum Dreams (also from the big final number
and a piece of Lynne’s original score).
The 30-minute Making Xanadu TV show was shown in 19 markets on the
week before the movie’s premiere. The show featured interviews with all
three leads (though you could hardly tell as Beck barely talked) scattered
throughout the telecast. Like the mini-con promo reel, this show offered
more rarities, a shortened ‘All Over The World’ segment and brief shot were
Kira, in a much different outfit, meets Sonny at the club; “Come here often”,
coos Kira (or was she?). There’s even a behind the scene segment were the
cast and crew were shooting Sonny and Kira’s farewell scene AT the
nightclub, not in heaven, as the final cut depicted it. Clearly, all of these
“bonus” scenes are courtesy of the shifting scripts revisions.
One of the show’s true highlights is the interview that was conducted with
the movie’s principal music men, John Farrar and Jeff Lynne. In one
segment, Lynne was successfully cracking Olivia up by acting up in front of
the camera. Lynne (seriously) : “ I would like to say that....(then like a young
brat)...’ello mum, ‘ello dad....(waves his hands, then goes back to normal)....
Sorry, I would like to say that.....my ice has melted...” He glances to Olivia
who’s giggling like hell.
Then there were Xanadu merchandise that the movie fans could get their hands on. First, there was the poster that was identical to
the original movie theater one, only without the credits; Olivia’s beaming face with the part of the Pan Pacific just right behind her head
with the Xanadu logo spread over the top. There were the individual music sheets for ‘Magic’, ‘Xanadu’ and ‘All Over The World’ and the
book to the soundtrack itself (published by Big 3 Music Publications/B3-4687), complete with color and B&W photos. This was not
counting the promotional T-shirts, buttons and sweaters that were sent to selected radio stations as giveaways.
Another notable item was a Marvel Super Special Magazine comic book version of the film...done in a traditional magazine size.
Back then, Marvel usually use the ‘Super Special’ format for comics based on current movies (or ‘Marvelized’ as Marvel Zombies would
put it). The first part of this magazine was the Xanadu comic itself with the ‘Stan Lee Presents...Xanadu!’ introduction. The writer was
Marvel veteran J. M. DeMatteis and the artists responsible for the artwork included Bill Sienkiewicz, Howard Chaykin and Peter Kuper,
all of whom would make their own mark in the world of comics, fantasy and illustration (Hell, you gotta start some place!).
The narration was done with a heavy dose of comic book-style melodrama in the Marvel Comics tradition (bear in mind that this is
the same outfit that gave Capt. American and The Fantastic Four to the known world). Unfortunately, the art work looked rushed. The fact
that Marvel was contracted at the last minute might have a lot to do with how the comic turned out. The final product is an interesting yet
uneven read. (#6)
The second part was devoted to the making of the film. These pages are crammed with bios, behind-and-front-of-the scenes
photos, information on the SFX and the animation. Also featured were large sections on the music and costume designs by Bobbie
Mannix. Undoubtedly, this publication is a must for anyone who’s seriously into Xanadu. The cover price is two 1980 dollars but
according to the Oversheet Comics Price Guide (THE bible of comic collecting), you can get it much cheaper; though the ones offered
through E-Bay goes anywhere from six to twenty plus dollars! Good Luck!
During this time, the first two singles from the soundtrack were making their way up the
Billboard charts. Magic ended up hitting #1 for four weeks while I’m Alive would make it to
#16 in the US. Soon thereafter, the second round of the film’s singles were released: ELO’s
All Over The World (b-side was ‘Drum Dreams’...again...?!) and the title song, ELO/ONJ duet,
Xanadu (b-side was the LP track with Olivia and Gene, ‘Whenever You’re Away From Me’).
These two releases were written and produced by Jeff Lynne and would serve to extend
Lynne’s winning streak in regards to this project. The World single received similar
packaging treatment as did the other singles, but, oddly enough, the Xanadu single did not...
in the US, that is. Only in the UK, did the Xanadu single get the special treatment, with a
gatefold sleeve (incredibly rare for ANY single) and, in certain copies, pink vinyl. All Over The
World did slightly better than I’m Alive in the US, reaching #13. Xanadu made it up to #8. In
the UK, Xanadu reached #1, thus handing Olivia her third number one; the two other ones
were her duets with Travolta from Grease. Not to mention ELO’s first single topper.
Thanks to the brief fad called picture discs, another set of records that were released. In
the UK, Magic and All Over The World was released as a limited edition picture single.
Probably the rarest disc in this collection is the promotional picture disc of the soundtrack.
There were only 100 made, sealing its highly collective fate.
It’s interesting to note that Xanadu was the last film to receive the GP rating from the MPAA.
It would be officially re-rated with a PG rating just in time for the advertising material, like the
official movie poster. You can see the old GP bumper at the very end in the laser disc and
early videotape copies.
Then came the opening weekend..........
One of many Xanadu t-shirts made
and given to radio stations for
one of many cardboard still
used to promote the
|ABOVE RIGHT: a flyer that was placed in the UK editions of the
Xanadu soundtrack RIGHT: the songsheet for the song Xanadu